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Tags: tofu, garlic, lemon, healthy, grill, sauce

Grilled Tofu in Garlic Lemon Sauce

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Illustrated recipe for marinating and grilling tofu, topped with a garlic lemon sauce

Tofu is an acquired taste for sure, and it's a rare person who is a fan on first tasting. Common complaints include blandness and a gelatinous texture. I felt the same way at first, but I'm glad I stuck with tofu past these early impressions. (Who really liked beer the first time they tasted it?) Over time I developed a taste for tofu. The flavour is subtle but it's there, and it's unique to tofu. It's an earthy but wholesome taste. In soups that usually have tofu (like miso and hot-and-sour) its absence would be noticeable. The texture issue is a little trickier. Even the "extra firm" variety just barely gets to the consistency of a soft cheese, but it's springier and spongy, like a gelatin. Even here there is good news. When cooked in certain ways, tofu can acquire a crispy outer layer while retaining its soft, moist interior. Marinating really helps both the flavour and the texture.

The internet recently provided me with some pointers on marinating and grilling tofu that actually work. It's a detailed but entertaining read that is pretty much guaranteed to give you something that improves your tofu preparing abilities. The photos are sumptuous and slightly intoxicating, two adjectives that you don't normally associate with pictures of tofu.

One of the links in the article is a recipe for a chicken marinade that I adapted and veganized here. I also added a lemon flavoured garlic sauce with white wine to offset the crispy exterior. Grilling takes practice—it's pretty easy to go too hot or too long, resulting in a tough, leathery slab. But it does get better with practice. Enjoy!


Two packages of extra firm tofu (700 g total, about 1.5 lbs)


1/2 cup olive oil

6 cloves garlic

10 sprigs cilantro, including stems

2 Tbl brown sugar

2 tsp ground coriander

2 Tbl lemon juice

1 Tbl dark soy sauce

1 tsp salt

Garlic Lemon Sauce

1/4 cup olive oil

3 cloves garlic, minced with a little salt

1/4 cup flour

1 1/2 cup vegetable stock (e.g., Knorr)

1/2 cup dry white wine

2 Tbl lemon juice

2 Tbl chopped cilantro, optional

1/2 tsp sugar

1/2 tsp salt or more, to taste


Combine all of the marinade ingredients in a food processor and mix well.

marinade ingredients marinade ingredients in the food processor marinade

Remove the tofu from the packages. Slice it into roughly 3" squares, approximately 1/3" thick.

tofu in its package

Place a single layer of the tofu squares on a paper-towel-covered plate and press out the moisture using a second paper towel.

tofu on a paper-towel-covered plate squeezing moisture out of the tofu tofu post-pressing the dried tofu

Arrange the tofu and marinade in layers in a shallow dish with a lid. Mix or shake until the marinade fully coats each piece.

tofu and marinade marinated tofu

Let the tofu rest in the fridge for anywhere from an hour to overnight.

At some point before grilling, make the garlic lemon sauce. Start by heating the olive oil and garlic over medium heat until the oil has a nice garlicky scent, but not long enough to turn the garlic brown. While the oil is heating, up, get the 1/4 cup of flour ready. Also mix the stock and wine together and keep it beside the pot on the stove for easy access.

heating olive oil and garlic

Add the flour to the pot and mix constantly with a wooden spoon for 2 minutes.

mix flour to make a roux cooking the roux

Add the stock/wine mixture a little bit at a time, mixing well after each addition so that the sauce stays utterly smooth.

adding stock and wine to make a sauce mixing sauce mixed sauce

Bring the sauce to a boil, stirring constantly.

bringing sauce to a boil

Once the sauce boils, reduce heat to a simmer and stir for an additional 3-4 minutes.

simmering sauce

Mix in the lemon juice, sugar, salt and optional cilantro at the end.

adding lemon juice, salt and cilantro

I'm not going to repeat the excellent tutorial on grilling tofu by serious eats. I've used their technique a few times now and I've never had tofu sticking to the grill, which is quite amazing when you think about it. The one piece of advice I'll give is go easy on the grilling time—slight under-cooking is much better than over-cooking. Also, think about putting the grilled pieces of tofu back in the marinating container after you take them off the grill and give the whole thing a shake just before serving. It gives some extra flavour, and being able to re-use the marinade after cooking is a special bonus only possible for vegetarian cooks.

grilling the tofu flipping the tofu on the grill

I serve the tofu on rice, coated in sauce, with some veggies on the side.

grilled tofu in a garlic lemon sauce on rice with veggies on the side

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Posted: Thursday, May 14, 2015